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Marcia Ball

Getting Baltimore in tune with Austin

Getting Baltimore in tune with Austin

It's Thursday afternoon, and downtown is awash in live music. Guitar solos shriek through the air, and the crisp snap of snare drums echoes from inside live music clubs. Hundreds of bands are crammed into every nook and cranny, vying to impress the tens of thousands of music lovers and industry folks who swarm the streets.

They've come to the Texas capital for the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference (SXSW), a 10-day summit for more than 100,000 on-the-cusp artists, filmmakers and fans that wraps up Sunday. While not the country's biggest music festival, SXSW is perhaps the most important.

"South by Southwest is huge for Austin," says Steve Colmus, drummer...